Why You May Want To Get Out Of Banking And Into A Family Office

“Jargon cloaks what is in reality a very simple business of being an intermediary. Boiled down to its very essence, a big City investment banker’s role isn’t so different from that of a middleman selling goods in a Middle Eastern bazaar. He or she helps a carpet shop owner sell carpets to a customer and takes a cut. The middleman then drinks some fresh mint tea with the owner to celebrate and walks along to the jewellery shop a few doors down to repeat the process with some gold necklaces.”

– A.N. Oveissi, The ibanker and the Golden Cage

A banker is a middleman who benefits when parties it purposely sandwiches itself in-between decide to do business. Think of your friendly next door IBD guy as cupid: he gets paid when two individuals kick it off and jump into bed. Is the banker therefore not highly incentivised to dress both parties nicely, light a candle, play sensual music and make sure the mood is just right? In banking, the more matches are made the bigger the bonus at the end of the year. Consequently, the animal that is the banker is ceaselessly matchmaking.

While it may sound appealing you should note that the pressure is enormous, particularly for junior banker who are responsible for the majority of the work – that ends up making senior bankers rich.

So if you’re able to make a jump into a Family Office (FO) then I would consider it. One cannot say which is better, working in banking or for an FO. But, having worked in both, I can list three things that made conditions in a FO significantly more enjoyable for me.

Better lifestyle and less stress

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the FO – an English one worth a few billion pounds – was the relaxed atmosphere of the place. Coming from a bank, I was hardwired to work without a moment’s respite, but people would say to me, “Take it easy, this isn’t a bank.”

The key difference being that the FO didn’t need to constantly beg clients to do deals in order to collect fees. They already had money – plenty of it. Don’t get me wrong, people there were hungry for more business; but they were much more laid back. That made all the difference.

Being in a position to patiently eye the market for the best opportunities to invest in is a completely different starting point than that of a banker who is given a spear and half a day to catch prey or face being slaughtered.

See and do more

It’s true, at a large investment bank you’ll deal with the biggest and most profitable firms in the world. But doing work for those clients is often mind-numbingly boring. And you are one of countless people in the assembly line of the well-oiled banking machine. Let’s not forget, too, that because the spotlight is on banks, with regulators closely watching their every move, there’s not as much room for creativity as the Careers section of banks’ websites claim there is. Unless you consider choosing between two different types of pie charts on a PowerPoint slide creative bliss.

In a FO, the deals may be smaller but you’ll experience more of the whole. Also, you’ll witness a steady and colourful stream of investment opportunities coming through your door. Opportunities to invest in assets ranging from luxury yachts, Oil & Gas companies, social gaming businesses to penthouses, exotic islands and Hollywood films.

At a bank you’ll see the same thing day after day with minor differences. Day 1: Spain’s biggest telco company; Day 2: France’s; Day 3: Italy’s. Day 4: can you guess?

Meet very interesting people

My rolodex grew exponentially the moment I joined a FO. From entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers and private equity firm founders to celebrated restauranteurs, eccentric hoteliers, important politicians and famous celebrities, including high-profile Hollywood and Bollywood actors, the people I met on a regular basis would impress most people.

Remember, a strong network serves a dealmaker very well throughout his or her career. In a FO yours will thrive.


Question for you: would you rather work in Banking or in a Family Office? And why?

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